How hope and gratitude improve mental health

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That "attitude of gratitude" can be just the ticket to positive mental health.

Complete the Circle: Spirituality and Mental Health
5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13
Valley West Community Hospital
11 E. Pleasant Ave. Sandwich, Ill. 60548
Registration required:
Or call 815-786-3962
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The term "mental health" still has a way to go before it stops raising eyebrows. But the therapists associated with KishHealth System are actively working to change the negative image that comes to mind for many as they consider seeking help for emotional issues.

In order to offer community members some suggestions for tapping their spiritual-but not necessarily religious-reserves, social worker Terri Schade will be presenting

"Complete the Circle: Spirituality and Mental Health" on Sept. 13 at Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich.

"I want to help people think about gratitude, for instance. When people look for things to be thankful for, they are in a more hopeful state of mind," Schade said. "And then if you practice focusing on gratitude, it becomes a habit of thought."

Studies have shown that when looking at ink blots more positive people see positive images. "If you are looking for the good, you will see the good," she pointed out. "A lot of people go looking for the negative, and they get it."

Honesty and integrity play large roles in healthy attitudes too, she said. When people can look at themselves and reflect that they have done their best and worked to do the right things, they have fewer regrets.

"Self-esteem doesn't so much come from accomplishments. It comes from how you feel about your own character," she said. So really we feel good about our efforts more than we feel good about the outcomes.

Schade also emphasized that compassion and service to others can go a long way in improving the giver's state of mental health.

"Feeling fulfilled does wonders for countering low feelings," she said.

Accepting situations for the way they are today, while being hopeful that one has the power to change a situation also leads people to healthier thought processes, she said.

"Take for example the financial pressures many people are under today. You may say to yourself, 'I'm really struggling right now.' You do have to accept that," she explained. "Then you can step outside the problem a little bit and look for ways to do something about it."

Schade encouraged people to attend her program, not because they think something is wrong, but because they want to look at life with more perspective. "This is about feeling inspired to live a little differently. It's enriching to look at yourself in a new light."

The program also will help Schade spread the message that seeking out counseling does not mean someone is sick. "I hope to make therapy seem more user-friendly. This is an accessible service. I've had clients tell me they were surprised how non-judgmental I am,'' she said. "That tells me there are people out there who are way too hard on themselves, and that can be a stumbling block to getting the kind of help they may need."

In addition to her work with Valley West, Schade has experience as a bereavement counselor with a hospice facility.

KishHealth Counseling Services are available in Sandwich and in Sycamore. The staff includes psychiatrists and a range of licensed counselors who work with individuals, families, groups and through Employee Assistance Programs. To make an appointment in Sandwich, call 815-786-3764.